Weeknotes S3e12

Soooo…more travel travails this week. Not of my own making this time though. My hotel in Birmingham suffered a complete power cut which led to an evacuation and me sitting on a bench in the middle of the (lovely) Christmas market trying to book a hotel room on my phone at 8.30pm. Was a fun challenge.

Then on the following day there were major disruptions on the Birmingham to London line which meant I could either wait THREE hours for my train or just go home. Guess which I did?

Anyway on the topic of work. Two significant things to report on.

The reason I was in Birmingham was the Defra Data ‘function’ unconference. Around 150 people attended with representatives from pretty much every corner of the Defra ‘family’ plus a few guests who use our data.

It was a really well organised event that ran really smoothly. I was also seriously impressed with the audience engagement — there was a huge queue of people pitching sessions at the start of the day and there was a constant buzz throughout it all — impressive given for the majority it was their first unconference.

It is safe to say ‘data’ feels like a more mature community across Defra than ‘digital’ does to me. There was a real sense of some kind of shared identity amongst people irrespective of their home organisation. It was strange how separate it all felt from digital as well — very little mention of ‘transformation’ or GDS.

The problems were familiar though — lack of tools, lack of common communication infrastructure, byzantium finance processes, bureaucracy, layers of governance. It didn’t seem to ever stray into negativity though — challenges were acknowledged and ideas were shared.

Anyway it was fun — I had some interesting conversations. There are passionate people out there who are open to doing things differently and who are full of ideas.

Kudos to the organising team.

Elsewhen I attended another GDS Service Standard assessment. Probably my last one in an official capacity I would think. I really find attending these things as an observer tough — even on projects I don’t know intimately I want to step in and speak! This one was quite different from the previous ones I’ve attended as the panel asked a lot of questions during the demo which actually meant that the team never really got to get through what they planned. The team did OK though — they were between a rock and a hard place for all sorts of reasons but stayed calm and presented well and were impressively open.

I’m glad to read more about the revised approach to assessments this week. I really think some teams need a lot more early engagement and guidance from GDS than others. The understanding of the meaning behind the Service Standard is really variable I am finding and it particularly difficult for teams who lack experience with the thinking that spawned the Standards — like agile, learn start-ups, design thinking etc and haven’t really seen or operated a true multi-disciplinary team.

Like I have written before:

Digital is already here —it’s just not very evenly distributed.

Next week looks like I will be knuckling down to get some recruitment stuff sorted and probably helping out a bit across the team as we are short a few people at the moment. I’m also going to try and spend the week in Bristol. We’ll see.

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